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Conference of Acholi chiefs: Rwot Otinga of Lamogi clan contributing

From 1987, Acholi Sub Region experienced new waves of military invasions in the form of cattle rustling by groups of marauding rustlers from North-Eastern Uganda, especially from Karamojong sub-region. However, the new cattle raids being experienced especially in Agago, Lamwo, Otuke and Pader districts, which neighbor Karamoja sub-region and South Sudan, now don military uniforms of Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF) formerly the National Resistance Army (NRA).

AGAGO-UGANDA:During the peak of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency, cattle rustlings were backed by the then NRA, now renamed the UPDF. In some instances rustlers would deploy the use helicopters gunships to drive the rustled heads of cattle at the same time would be bombing the people who were looking after the livestock. The community who lived along the frontier became vulnerable since they only had spears, bow and arrows that could not match advance military hardware like guns and AK-47 assault rifles.

Black Star News caught up with Rwot George Opobo, the clan chief of Adilang sub-county in Agago district and an elder, Dr. Nelson Okidi from Lira Kato sub-county, also in Agago district and had Q&A interviews on the current state of affairs on how they are dealing with cattle rustlings.

Question:What is the current situation in Adilang? Are the people still facing cattle rustling from Karamojong worriers after the return from concentration camps, later renamed Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps?

Answer: Yes. But right from the time the communities who live in IDP went back home from the camps, the problem of cattle rustling has subsided.

However, what is happening now is that there are some individuals from Karamoja Sub Region who is still come in few numbers to steal cattle from us. If you compare rustling now to the organized rustling before people went to IDPs, you find that these days the Karamojong rustlers has developed new tactics of raiding cattle. They come in few numbers of about two or three people to steal the animals.

Before midnight, they would be within the vicinity of homestead waiting for people to enter into their huts so that they will go to steal the cattle when people are already asleep. They have even changed their methods of rustling. Instead of collecting all head of animals in a kraal, they would pick only one or two bulls that are easy to escape with.

They just wait for people to fall asleep so that they would easily escape before 3:00 am local time (about 00:00 hours GMT) when people haven’t woken up from sleep so that they can cross the border back to Karoamoja unnoticed.

Sometimes they would also target household properties like food stuffs like sorghum and clothes, and would for instances, even kill their victims if the victims do not run away from them or try to resist.

Question: If you aretocompare your sub-county and other areas bordering Karamoja and South Sudan, is your area being greatly affected most the Karamojong raids?

Answer: Not only Karamojong who are involved in cattle stealing. Cattle are being stolen even by some of our own local people from within the community of Adilang Sub County.

Cattle rustlings are new business phenomenon; even people in Adilang Sub County have joined it. For them, they load stolen cattle in lorry trucks and transport them to Arua market. It is a lucrative business for them.

There are also rampant land conflicts across Acholi sub-region which started when people went back to their homes from camps. Adilang communities also are experiencing land conflicts. You find that brothers are fighting among themselves over same piece land which used to belong to their parents. Families who used to live side by side in a neighborhood, you find that they now embroiled in land grabbing.

But, together with other clan chiefs, we are trying to mediate on land matters, although in some instances, cases of land disputes have been taken to courts for arbitrations. However courts still send some cases back to us to mediate. I remember of a case of land dispute where one child was killed by the conflicting parties as result. The one of year old child was speared to death by the rival community in Patong Sub County in the neighborhood of Adilang Sub County. But such case is not rampant, unlike in west Acholi districts of Gulu, Amuru and Nwoya.

Question:Dr. Okidi, what is your take on the Karamojong rustlings, especially in Lira Kato, Adilang, and Piamol as it used to be compared to now?

Answer:The situation in our area has changed. There are no more cattle raiding, but there are cattle thieving by the Karamojong who come in few numbers to steel one or two animals.

I think Karamojong will never stop their act of stealing animals. It’s their way of living, because they have the guns, and since we, as Acholi community bordering Karamoja sub-region, we shall remain vulnerable. Even if government tries to disarm Karamojong people, they still can acquire other guns from neighboring South Sudan and the Turkana region of Western Kenya.

The good thing is that our youths are also are warriors. They would go every evening to waylay the Karamojong thieves while they are still a distance away. Our youths would just kill them because by that time, they are not aware that they have entered in ambushes.

 One day when youths from Lira Kato went to wait for the Karamojong as usual, they waited until 3.00 am, but the Karamojong never showed up in that root they used to follow. They abandoned the wait; little did they know that the Koramojong had passed from a different route.

After these youths came back, they entered into one hut, and to their surprise, Karamojong came straight and surrounded their hut and ordered the nine youths to surrender their clothes and they surrendered.










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